What German Creative Can Learn from Vorsprung durch Technik
B-Reel Berlin's David Andersson, Creative Technology Director and Jessica Valin, Managing Director/Executive Producer look back on some recent projects and ponder the state of creative innovation in Germany...
Nearly every company I know want to be more innovative. Innovation has become a mythical noun that many use but all with different meanings. Innovation is the process in which we add to the world. In a commercial world companies need to be innovative in order to stay competitive.
For us at B-Reel innovation is a state of mind. Innovation is essentially about taking risks and breaking rules. Companies usually excel in making rules and minimizing risks. Innovation is fundamentally done by individuals. People with the right set of skills that creative, curious, and driven by the unknown. To push innovation, the best thing a company can do is to hire these people and to trust them. A lot.
One of these people is our Creative Technology Director in Berlin, David Andersson. He has been in the digital world since 1996 and was one of the key players in our project for Mercedes-Benz GLA, with Jung von Matt.
I asked David what his take on innovation, creative technology and Germany is.
Innovation, using technology in creative ways can sometimes feel like the magic dust that you can sprinkle on top of any mediocre idea, and all of a sudden it becomes awesome. Which naturally leads to the question - where to find that magic dust?
It’s a question we quite often get at B-Reel, especially here in Germany where we, as a Swedish company within digital, spark extra interest. Historically Germany has been, and still is to a certain extent, very reliant on traditional advertising such as print and especially TVCs. In the German advertising industry, however, there has lately been quite a focus on technical innovation – translated that means to use some sort of tangible technology (robots, AR, VR, drones, holograms or whatever buzzword) to build something not built or seen before. It is, of course, super cool when we get those project requests as I absolutely love to explore these things. But for me it seems that a bit too often those projects focus on technology for technology’s sake, and not necessarily what is best for the message or story that needs to be told.
Look at German automakers. They are innovative and super creative. They create Vorsprung durch Technik, all of them. Their technological innovations have a purpose: to create better experiences in and around the cars. Never technological bells and whistles.
What we at B-Reel have done when it comes to innovation also has as purpose to create experiences. Look at:
2008 project Hotel626 where we used Facebook, cell phones, 3D cameras and real time renderings side by side with every trick in the horror story book to scare 40 million people and to move chips off the shelves in record breaking speed.
2010 Mitsubishi Live Drive where we used robotic arms to make a driverless real production car driveable from any browser worldwide.
2010 Wilderness Downtown where we used Google Street View and Google Earth to create a personalised music video playing out on the street you grew up on. It emphasised the song’s message of the easier days of your childhood while showing off Google Chrome’s abilities with HTML5, making millions and millions download the newly released browser.
2012 The Beauty Inside where Intel and Toshiba told a story where both casting, directing and transmission happened online, in social media side by side by traditional storytelling. It won three Grand Prix at Cannes Lions for creativity, but also a daytime TV Emmy Award despite being aired during the ad breaks.
If we look at innovation as a broader term, I believe it is very much about the creation process. Creating novel things in new ways. New ways of thinking about a problem or attacking an execution. It is not necessarily about building new inventions or technological flair, but being knowledgeable and smart, finding ways to make things better, simpler, faster, more creative, more beautiful and more efficient. And even if the final result isn’t perceived as innovative per se, the progress and execution towards it could be bordered with innovation.
If we take the 2013 Mercedes-Benz GLA campaign for example. For me the innovation in there dwelled more in the process than anything else. How the director and creative director collaborated with the technical team. How the art directors and designers embraced the new form of storytelling, and the developers (in this case JvM NEXT) pushed as hard as they could to pave the way for the creatives’ vision.
So if I really think about and take a stab at the question of how best to se oneself up for innovation, well, these are probably the cornerstones I would rely on.
I think first and foremost, you have to have that curiosity. You need to be truly interested in whatever subject you take on, trying to find out more, learn more. Ask questions and don’t be too lazy to chase down the answers.
And when chasing down the answers, keep an open mind. Too often people are set on only finding information that confirms their assumptions rather than also being open for new angles. Don’t be stubborn.
Now this is probably the trickiest part. It doesn’t matter how curious or open minded you are if you do not have enough knowledge to know what to look for or what questions to ask. The key here is to surround yourself with others who know more than you. Be it in your close surrounding or extended circle, you have to liaise yourself with people knowledgeable in the area you are venturing into.
And partnering with other more knowledgeable parties – your collaboration skills also come to play here. I personally believe that being able to collaborate effortlessly without pride, prestige or hierarchy is vital for a climate that nourishes innovation.
Time and/or money
Needless to say, a fair budget helps a lot when you want to do something that has never been done before. All the time needed to fulfil that process is also obviously important. As with all projects the rule of time versus budget versus quality (or novelty) is true, and in projects geared towards novelty even more. As a general rule of thumb, a project cannot have short timings and low budget and still be expected to score high on the innovation scale.
If knowledge is the tricky one, then this is, in my opinion, by far the most important one. If you have the balls to take the jump then lacking in knowledge and lacking time and money doesn’t matter so much. When you are doing something that hasn’t been done before, you have no guarantees. No map. No safe picture of the outcome. Only more or less qualified guesses. Of course, I’m not saying you should be stupid or reckless and you should of course calculate for all eventualities. But I firmly believe that in order to really succeed in innovation, you need to be prepared to fail.
In summary I would say that none of these cornerstones are that unique or that special for B-Reel, but I do believe that B-Reel does a great job in fostering a climate that embraces them – and a lot of our innovation capacity stems from that. Especially important is the sense of collaboration and fearlessness which I credit to our Swedish heritage. If anything at all, I feel that others could benefit from developing those traits further.